Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sarawak needs to be rebranded to attract more tourists


KUCHING: Sarawak needs to be rebranded to attract more tourists to the state, like how Thailand has branded Phuket and the Philippines with Boracay Island.

Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the state has many attractions, in culture and biodiversity, thus Sarawak could be branded as a safe destination, for instance.

“Sarawak needs to have a new brand like other countries like the Philippines which used Cebu and Boracay Island and not just the Philippines (in entirety),” he said at a press conference after the ‘Engagement Session: Minister of Tourism and Culture with Sarawak Tourism Industry Players’ yesterday.

As such, several aspects of the tourism industry must be upgraded including direct flights with international airlines which looks promising.

He added that with co-operation for direct flights from Singapore to Kuching and Hong Kong to Kuching, it will bring in more tourists to the state.

“With the direct flights between both countries, tourists landings from Singapore and Hong Kong will also increase,” Nazri said.

Last year, Sarawak recorded international tourist landings at 2.5 million and domestic tourists at 2.02 million.

On international tourists, among the highest are from Brunei with 1.6 million, Indonesia 483,171, the Philippines 111,616, Singapore 42,827 and China 32,916.

“International tourist landings to Sarawak are higher compared to domestic (tourism) and the ministry will put in more effort to attract domestic tourists to come through the ‘Dekat Jer’ Campaign.”

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Eye to eye with an orang-utan in the jungle


I never thought I’d eyeball a genuine free-range orang-utan, but then I’d never been to Borneo.

“Don’t get too close, and watch out for your camera.” Sage advice from the ranger with the big stick. “Most are friendly but a few get a bit angry so we have to say keep clear of all of them.”

Welcome to Sandakan, best known to Aussies for the death march of Allied prisoners after the fall of Singapore.

Nowadays the thick, steaming jungle no doubt looks much more benign — vipers, giant stinging centipedes and mozzies aside.

But Sandakan in Sabah state now has a much more humane profile as Malaysia’s and possibly the world’s foremost orang-utan rehabilitation centre in the 4300ha Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve.

The centre at Sepilok teaches rescued, injured and orphaned animals and their offspring to forage and cope with freedom.

Tourists might like it otherwise but a successful feeding time is when all the animals have their fill of fruit and berries from the jungle and none turn up, though usually at least one is coaxed from the tall timber.

The human-supplied food is always the same and boring to encourage the animals to look after themselves but they still seem to crave interaction.

So close encounters materialise at random when a large, red and hairy great ape suddenly appears on the tourist boardwalk or in a tree next to it.

It’s hard not to be moved — and not just in beating a hasty retreat while dealing with an unusually severe case of camera shake.

Up close an orang-utan’s character comes to the fore and even one obviously naughty (and branded as such) teenager seemed more wilfully cheeky than dangerous as he uprooted a sign then charged squealing tourists only to climb the pergola offering them respite from the hot tropical sun. He was also smiling.

Rescued sun bears are also residents in enclosures so big they might as well be free to range and, unlike their neighbours, the bears always turn up for their fruit and veg.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Eye to eye with an orang-utan in the jungle
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

How Can Planting a Tree Save an Orangutan?


How can planting a tree save an orangutan?

That is the same question we asked our friends at Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) when we heard about their Tree Planting Project—and the answer will amaze you.

Below is a great explanation from Barbara Bichler, director of School Projects for BOS in Germany:

Located in the Indonesian part of central Borneo, Mawas is an area of 309,000 hectares—twice the size of greater London.

More than 80% of it is covered by tropical peatland forest, which, built through thousands of years, is among the oldest forests in the world and serves as a massive carbon sink.

Its value for biological balance is immense.

The Mawas region is home to approximately 3,000 wild orangutans—one of the largest populations in the world.

The area is actually named after the primates, since Mawas literally means orangutan in the indigenous language.

In order to create space for rice plantations, parts of this area were deforested and drained of water.

Many trees were logged and irrigation canals built before it was realized that this area was not suitable for planting rice at all.

The result was devastating. The peatland became both drought-prone and flood-prone.

The “One Million Hectare Rice Barn” ended up becoming a barn of problems.

BOS Germany is working on a large-scale rain forest replantation project in order to re-establish Mawas’ lost nature.

The entire area is divided into five territories.

One of them is Rantau Upak, an area of 1,000 hectares, which suffered a lot from drainage, illegal deforestation, and forest fires.

To rebuild the forest, canals need to be blocked.

This will allow the swamp to be rehydrated, enabling the forest to grow again.

A hundred hectares of land are to be replanted, and four local villages have collected seeds and cultivated seedlings to be planted in the wet peat.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: How Can Planting a Tree Save an Orangutan?
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Villages in Sarawak urged to incorporate homestay for tourists


KUCHING: Every village in the state should consider the idea of homestays to boost their income, said Tourism and Culture Minister Dato Seri Mohammed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

“I encourage every village to take advantage of homestays, which is a draw among foreign tourists. Tourists prefer homestay experience where they can enjoy local cultures and daily lifestyle of the people.

“Villagers do not even have to change their lifestyle beyond their daily routine. They only have to continue doing what they do, such as fishing or farming. Tourists come to these homestays to experience this kind of daily living. In return, the villagers get to earn income from the homestays.

“In our ministry, we have one unit dedicated to helping people plan for successful homestays. We also have soft loans for those who need to restore or renovate old village house or longhouse for homestay use,” he said at the Satok Majlis Pemimpin Bersama Rakyat at Dewan Datu SK Merpati Jepang on Monday night.

Nazri unexpectedly turned up at the event hosted by PBB Satok branch to rally support for BN incumbent Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Nazri said Abang Johari is a close ally since he became the Sarawak Tourism Minister.

“I never miss visiting Satok every time there is a Sarawak state election. Abang Johari is a close friend and colleague of mine.

“The Borneo states are important icons for our country, wherever I go promoting tourism overseas as the Tourism and Culture Minister. The tourism industry in Sarawak and Sabah are strong because of their leaders who ensure development does not erode the natural environment and cultures of their people,” he said.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Travel Malaysia Fair ends on a promising note for Sarawak Tourism


Travel Malaysia Fair (TMF) 2016 held at Changi Expo and Convention Centre here closed its curtain late Sunday evening, leaving Sarawak travel operators, hoteliers and product suppliers hopeful of more tourists being brought into the state from Singapore.

“It was a good outing with promising returns and we are glad our partners are looking for better days ahead,” said Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) marketing manager Gustino Basuan in a press statement yesterday.

A total of 21 Sarawak agents, hoteliers and product and homestay owners attended the three-day fair selling Sarawak product experience packages to Singaporeans.

STB’s participation in the fair included the launch of the first leg of the Sarawak marketing campaign by Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism, and the Board’s chief executive officer Datu Ik Pahon on behalf of Tourism Minister Datu Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg on Friday.

At the TMF 2016, STB featured the launch of the public bus wrap advertisement on SBS transit buses, three stage shows held daily to highlight Sarawak cultural presentation, Sarawak artisans and crafters demonstrating traditional weaving, basketry, bead-making, and bringing their products for sale to Singaporeans.

The fair also featured a daily Sarawak destination product workshop while business-to-business sessions were conducted on Friday afternoon.

Reaping benefits from the campaign, managing director of Amogha Tours and Travel, Capt (Rtd) Narayanan Kanan said the three-day outing had been fruitful for him.

“The business session has resulted in the confirmation of four groups of 60 tourists from Singapore,” he said, looking forward to seven to 10 promising deals secured with new found partners at the meeting.

Though new in the market place, Narayanan hopes to get in touch with fellow Indian agents based in Singapore, and be a partner in their business that taps into Singapore as a hub bringing tourists from India to Singapore and extension of their packages to Sarawak.

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Huge influx of Chinese tourists to Labuan in July


LABUAN: Labuan will be flooded with the influx of Chinese tourists beginning July.

At least some 2,000 Chinese tourist arrivals per week and 8,000 per month from the country’s six major cities are expected to flock to the duty-free island and this will continue until December this year.

Labuan Member of Parliament Datuk Rozman Isli said the influx of the long-awaited Chinese arrivals with greater purchasing power would kick-start the island’s tourism industry and its economic base transformation.

“With everything in place, we expect the first flight carrying at least 146 to 160 Chinese tourists will arrive here on July 15 and this will continue until year-end,” he said at two business events — Engagement Session with Tourism Industry Players and launching of the 19th Malaysian Malay Chamber of Commerce Labuan Annual General Meeting here.

He said a Kuala Lumpur-based tour agent in collaboration with its Chinese counterpart had chosen Labuan for the huge influx of Chinese tourists and this augured well for the island’s tourism industry.

Rozman, who is also Labuan Corporation chairman, said the local authority had been preparing to welcome the Chinese tourist arrivals with improved facilities at its existing islands and attraction spots.

“Two months to go to prepare for the influx of the Chinese tourists, in terms of adequate accommodation in hotels, and cleanliness and hygiene in restaurants as well as security,” he said.

He said the China-based tour agent will be visiting the island on May 2 to witness first hand the island’s tourist attractions and facilities.

“Therefore, industry players, hoteliers, eateries and businesses must help in giving better first impression to the tour agents and the tourists,” he said.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Ailing Oil and Gas industry forces Labuan to push tourism


LABUAN: The island tourism players must take the lead now in reviving Labuan’s ailing economy following the slump in the oil and gas industry.

Labuan MP Datuk Rozman Datuk Isli said the tourism industry must find ways on how to generate revenue for the island.

“Tourism has been playing second fiddle after the oil and gas industry. And with the drop in the world oil prices, we have to relook the tourism industry,” he said during an engagement session with Tourism and Culture ministry and tourism players here on Saturday.

Rozman who is also the Labuan Corporation chairman said the oil and gas industry has been the main economic driver of the island all these years and no one expected that the industry would fail this time around.

“We are facing a crisis on the island as businesses are failing and the number of visitors and employees are dropping,” he said.

He said the time has come for tourism operators to pull up their socks and work for the good of the future of Labuan.

He added that the oil and gas industry has been crippled and it would take time for the industry for pick up again.

“We must save the economy of Labuan and the tourism industry is the next best thing that we have,” he pleaded. According to Rozman, tourist arrival has dropped by 2.6 per cent from 1.04 million in 2014 to 1.02 million visitors.

He also said that his office has forward a proposal to the Prime Minister to step up tourism activities in Labuan.

“Our Prime Minister has directed the tourism ministry to take the necessary actions to help Labuan in the tourism industry,” he added.

The engagement session, Rozman said, was among the initiatives to improve the tourism industry.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

ProKWorldCruise - Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) Malaysia


Kota Kinabalu (KK for short) was almost completely destroyed during World War II, and the Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905 was one of only a handful of structures to survive.

They are the only colonial remnants of an almost century-long British control, in the older part of the capital.

KK just received its city status in February, 2000, but its history dates back more than a century. 

The British North Borneo Chartered Company discovered it by accident when it was only a small fishing village. 

It became a trading for local products such as rubber, rattan, wild honey and wax. 

The Co. built a railway line from the interior to the harbor to transport goods.

They did bring about tremendous change for the people by quelling piracy, planting tobacco, developing rubber estates and importing chinese and Indonesian labourers to work. 

Some local tribes were displeased with its control and staged a number of upheavals.

KK’s history has been colorful, with the power changing hands from the British to the Japanese, to the British, and finally back to the people of Malaysia. 

The city has grown into a reputable financial, economic and tourism centre, and have kept their  rich cultural diversity  intact.

Our view coming into port.  The day was beautiful and the city looked wonderful. 

We passed a fishing village coming in, that consists of houses built on wooden stilts and they sit in the water. 

They are all joined together by wooden sidewalks. Many of the houses look like they are in pretty advanced stages of decay. Its pretty incredible to see actually.

We were greeted by  young women and men as we left our ship and treated to a band and dancers in local costume.  Wayne with a big smile as he poses.

We toured the Mari Mari Cultural Village which is located in the jungle.  The setting is magnificent with all kinds of trees, flowing streams and wooden bridges. 

Five completely different ethnic tribes are represented  in a natural environment where their traditions and histories have been well preserved.

Each tribe welcomed us into their homes to give us a glimpse of simple everyday life.

We heard stories of how their ancestors lived; their spiritual beliefs, demonstrations of fire starting using no metal, just bamboo, tattooing, cooking, honey collecting, rice wine, bamboo trampoline, and blow darts.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: ProKWorldCruise - Kota Kinabalu (Borneo) Malaysia
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Sarawak promotes tourism in Singapore


The Sarawak marketing campaign in Singapore kicked-off yesterday at the Travel Malaysia Fair (TMF) 2016, held at Changi Expo and Convention Centre.

The highlight of the launch included three daily stage shows featuring a Sarawak cultural presentation and the launching of the public bus wrap advertisement on SBS transit buses.

Twenty-one travel agents, hoteliers and homestay owners are participating in the three-day travel fair. The launching of the campaign will also feature Sarawak artisans and crafters demonstrating traditional weaving, basketry and bead making besides making their products available for sale directly to Singaporeans.

The travel fair will also feature destination and product seminars and business-to-business sessions over the weekend for Singaporean travel agents, tourism-related business agencies and visitors.

The campaign was officiated at yesterday afternoon by state tourism ministry permanent secretary Dato Ik Pahon Joyik, who is also the chief executive officer of Sarawak Tourism Board (STB).

Ik Pahon was representing former tourism minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at the campaign, which was also held to launch Travel Malaysia Fair (TMF) 2016.

Also present at the launching were president of Express and Excursion Bus Association (EEBA) Joe Lim, organising chairman of the TMF 2016 Sebastian Yap, director of Sarawak Tourism Malaysia (Singapore) Noor Aine Ismail, and the chairman of the Sarawak Tourism Federation Philip Yong.

“We are pleased to bring Sarawak closer to Singaporeans and being able to share our rich colourful cultures and a broad array of unique tourism products at a very affordable price,” said Ik Pahon at the opening ceremony.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak promotes tourism in Singapore
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Lepa Regatta helps boost Sabah tourism


SEMPORNA: The Lepa Regatta Festival can give a lot of benefits and positive impacts on the economy particularly the State’s tourism industry, said Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

As such, he said the State government had always been supportive of efforts and initiatives by every district to showcase their respective unique cultures and traditions.

“The State government allocated a budget for this year’s regatta through Sri Pelancongan Sabah, an agency under the Sabah Tourism, Culture & Environment Ministry.

“Despite the slow economy and prudent expenditure, the State government remained committed in funding this festival every year to ensure its success,” he said in his speech text read by Assistant Finance Minister Datuk Ramlee Marhaban at the launch of the 23rd Lepa Regatta here on Saturday.

The festival was officiated by the Yang DiPertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin.

Musa said the festival which had its own uniqueness and significance was not only celebrated by the Bajau community in the area but the excitement and its uniqueness were enjoyed and celebrated by people from all walks of life in the country.

“This festival had attracted many tourists from inside and outside Sabah, especially those in Semporna.

“And, in my opinion, this festival is the Bajau’s legacy and it should be preserved,” he said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Lepa Regatta helps boost Sabah tourism
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Direct flights between Tianjin and KK resume in June


KOTA KINABALU: The direct charter flight services between Tianjin and Kota Kinabalu will resume from June to December this year after taking a two-month break.

The service initially started from January to March was discontinued after some untoward incidents in the eastern coast.

And a new contract has been signed between Shanlian E.Commerce Co president Tang Wen Ge and Universal Charter executive chairman Datuk Rashid Khan to revive the service in the second half of this year.

Shanlian and Universal are respectively a Tianjin and a Kuala Lumpur based companies. The initial agreement signed early this year also involved both of these companies.

The signing ceremony held at a hotel here on Friday was witnessed by Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) head of charter Yazid Mohamed and Tianjin Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference vice director general Yin Bo.

“We believe the charter flight services have the potential to generate economic spin-offs of some RM33 million for Sabah throughout the period from January to December,” said Rashid.

According to Yazid, the response was encouraging during the initial operations from January to March because it coincided with the Chinese New Year period.

“The passengers coming to Kota Kinabalu were a mix of holidaymakers and incentive groups from corporate companies,” noted Yazid.

For the coming services, he said there would be three flights a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – for a four-day and five-night tour packages in Sabah.

“We will be using the Boeing 737-800 plane which has a seating capacity of 160 passengers. We expect to mount some 100 flights and bring in some 16,000 visitors to Sabah from Tianjin,” said Yazid.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Suncitygaltx: Last Stop on Borneo


Today we were in the other Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, Sarawak, probably best known for its orang utans (their spelling, not mine!).

More about that  later.  What is now Sarawak was once under the control of the Sultan of Brunei.

In 1841 he ceded the territory  to a British explorer, James Brooke, for his assistance in quelling civil unrest and chaos. Three generations of Brookes, who became known as the White Rajahs, ruled for 100 years. 

In 1888 Sarawak and Brunei became British Protectorates.  In 1941 the Japanese invaded the area, and Sarawak remained part of the Empire of Japan for three years and eight months. Sarawak was  officially granted self-government on 22 July,1963 and later that year formed the federation of Malaysia with Malaya, North Borneo, and Singapore.  Malaysia is a young country,

The three main ethnic classifications are the indigenous people (tribal), Chinese, and Malays. This is in contrast to the other Malaysian state of Sabah, which has very few Chinese.  The religious makeup of the population is 42% Christian, 32% Islam, and 16% Buddhist.  Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia where Christians outnumber Muslims.

We explored Kuching, the capital, which is considered one of Malaysia's most charming and laidback cities.  We started our day at the Semmenggoh Willdilfe Center, which was established  to care for wild animals which have either been found injured in the forest, orphaned, or were previously kept as illegal pets. 

The Centre has been a resounding success, caring for almost 1,000 endangered mammals, birds and reptiles from dozens of different species. However it is the orang utan rehabilitation program that has made the Centre famous. 

Today there are twenty-seven orang utans in residence,  The Centre is located in a deep forest; heavy ropes have  been strung among the  trees to bring them to the feeding stations twice a day, and they KNOW when it's time for a meal! 

We had less than an hour to observe them; tourists are allowed into the park only twice a day for the feeding times.  They really are smart.  Most of the ones we saw had snagged coconuts from the feeding stations, and took off on the ropes and the trees to enjoy them.  They first stripped off the husks of the coconuts, then banged it on the tree trunk to open the top.

Next they tipped it up to drink the milk inside, then proceeded to crack it open so that they could enjoy the meat of the coconut.

We returned to the city of Kuching, which translates to 'cat'; we passed the large, colorful sculpture of kitty cats, and noticed later that many of the souvenir T-shirts had images of cats on them.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Suncitygaltx: Last Stop on Borneo
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Australian youth development programme recognises Japanese WWII occupation in Borneo


KOTA KINABALU: The history of Japanese occupation in Borneo during the Second World War between the years 1942-45 has been included in a youth development programme in Australia.

It all started in 2003 as a community education programme by highlighting the infamous Sandakan Death March before PASS or the Partnership with Australia, Sabah and Sarawak schools was established.

Borneo Exhibition Group Inc. Western Australia chairman Ryan Rowland said under PASS, students are asked to do an assignment or take part in a competition and winners will then receive a two-week sponsored trip to visit memorial sites starting in Kuching and ending in Kota Kinabalu.

Ryan who led an entourage of Australian war veterans and their family members to pay homage to fallen soldiers at war memorial sites across Sabah, said the trip would encourage local and Australian students to come together to learn about that chapter in history.

“In the beginning we only focused on the Australian side of the story but over the years we realised that during the four years of Japanese occupation there was much more trauma and tragedy suffered by the local people here and left forgotten,” said Ryan during a visit to a Sikh Temple near Sembulan yesterday.

“For us, we continue to keep the memories alive during Anzac Day to remember the fallen soldiers and we would like the locals to join us because the commemoration is not just for the Aussies and New Zealanders but it is for everybody,” he said.

Over the years a lot of Australian war veterans have been unable to travel to Sabah because of their mobility problems due to old age.

“In the next couple of years, we will lose many of them because most of them are now in the 90s and furthermore they are not functioning well mentally and physically. Now we only have three living members who were Sandakan prisoners of war and they are aged 95, 97 and 100 years old,” said Ryan.

“For us we have a very strong responsibility to pass on the history and heritage to the next generation from the information told to us by their forefathers,” he said.

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Upgrading Miri Airport a top priority


MIRI: The federal government through the Ministry of Transport is making the expansion and upgrading of Miri Airport estimated to cost RM285 million top priority.

The project will be implemented in the second rolling plan of the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) in 2017 to enable the airport to handle four million passengers annually.

This was announced by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai when declaring open the newly extended apron and covered walkway of the airport costing RM68 million yesterday.

Others attending the ceremony were Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate for Senadin Datuk Lee Kim Shin, BN candidate for Piasau Datuk Sebastian Ting, Ministry of Transport deputy secretary general Datuk Chua Kok Ching, Department of Aviation director general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abdul Rahman and Deputy Miri Resident Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf.

According to Liow, Miri Airport was designed to receive two million passengers annually but the number of passenger arrivals had exceeded its capacity.

“It is the government’s hope and mine, that the upgrading work which have been implemented and being planned can further boost the economy of Miri City, especially in terms of tourist arrival and business opportunities for the locals,” he said.

Liow said it is important for the government to upgrade Miri Airport as it is the second busiest airport in Sarawak after Kuching International Airport.

During a press conference later, Liow said upgrading the airport to an international status would not be much of a problem as it had several features to be one, like immigration counters and flights coming in from Singapore.

He added a key feature that needed improvement would be separate departure and arrival halls which the airport did not currently have.

Liow said the ministry had to address the expansion proposal urgently as the airport is also being used as hub for the Rural Air Services (RAS).

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Upgrading Miri Airport a top priority
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Friday, April 22, 2016

KaliTravel: BORNEO – Santubong Sunset Cruise, Sarawak


We crossed back over the River Sarawak on the little ferry, in time for a ‘Wildlife Cruise’ trip, that we’d booked at a waterfront tour office, to see the Sarawak lowland marshes of the Santubong Peninsula.

A minibus took us to the Santubong Boat Club a short drive away.

We clambered into a small launch with the boatman, guide, and a friendly North American family with two children – Sue, the mother was born in Malaysia, an interesting lady, she gave us many interesting ideas for future visits, especially to the Sabah region of Borneo.

The wide Santubong river was calm, the meandering mangrove swamps awesome, and the scenery magical.

We were told the mythical legend of Mount Santubong as we slid by the mysterious mountain on our journey towards the estuary.

Our guide explained that at a certain point where the river water meets the salt water from the sea, there is a colony of unique Irrawaddy dolphins; the engine was turned off and we drifted – the dolphins soon came to see us, showing off their jumps and dives.

Following this, we were fortunate enough to spot a white-bellied sea eagle flying overhead!

Further down the river, big mean looking crocodiles lazed on the muddy sandbanks that border the river.

I passively shot photos but my husband tried to attract a croc’s attention… until it slithered into the water towards us, the brute almost the size of our boat! Crocodiles have been known to attack swimmers, and a few months previously one tried to take an adolescent who was bathing just off the idyllic beach that we’d just passed (but by poking his fingers in the animal’s eyes, the boy managed to get away).

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'Sarawak Movie in the Rainforests' short film competition


KUCHING: The Ministry of Tourism Sarawak is inviting local youths aged 18 to 35 to compete in a short film competition named ‘Sarawak Movie in the Rainforests’ from Wednesday until July 15.

It is held in collaboration between Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (Azam) and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) to promote the film industry in the state by encouraging participation of local talent.

Jepak BN candidate Datuk Talib Zulpilip said it is also to showcase Sarawak’s film making potential to movie makers from around the world.

“We want to dig up local talent. People overseas are more active than us. We believe we have local talent in filmmaking so this is the opportunity to showcase yourselves,” he told a press conference yesterday.

The competition is organised in conjunction with this year’s Rainforest World Music Festival in August as well as to consolidate the ‘rainforest’ brand for Sarawak’s tourism products.

It is also part of a coordinated approach in promoting and developing another special product of Sarawak, the flagship event of Asean International Film Festival and Awards (Aiffa) which the State had held twice biennially since 2013.

Talib said the first prize winner will bring home a cash prize of RM5,000 while the second and third prize winner will walk away with RM3,000 and RM1,500 respectively.

Three consolation winners will each receive a RM500 cash prize.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

KaliTravel: BORNEO – Bako National Park, Sarawak


The highlight of my Borneo adventure was a day out in Bako National Park.

Mr Chia, our friendly taxi driver, took us to the Bako Terminal river jetty just outside Kuching town, where we purchased tickets – these included the return fare across the Sarawak River to the nature reserve and the entrance fee, but we had to find someone else to share the small launch which takes four or five passengers.

Fine, there was a friendly French couple waiting too, slight snag was we had to arrange to meet up later to get the same boat back together.

A short trip along the Sarawak taking in the scenery and we arrived at Bako, Borneo’s oldest national park (2,727 hectares); it’s the most fascinating rainforest nature reserve, jutting into the China Sea on the Muara Tebas peninsula.

The wooden landing jetty is located in a mangrove swamp where bare trees are hauntingly immersed in the water, their branches reaching up to the sunlight.

On arrival we headed for the park HQ, to sign in at the registration counter and get info on the different trails.

Our new French friends went for the shorter, hour long, walk to see the proboscis monkeys at Paku beach (800m from HQ) while Juan and I decided to explore a bit further to Pandan Kecil beach (2.6 km, estimated 1 ½ hours walk each way).

There’s a network of 16 nature trails in Bako, ranging from 30 minute strolls to 8 ½ hours hikes, taking in Borneo’s unique wildlife and fauna, beaches, waterfalls and viewpoints; many travelers book to stay overnight at the lodge or camp out with previous permission.

Our trail took us along the water’s edge through the amazing mangrove swamps, then cut inland and uphill though the forest and shrubs to a wide open rocky plain…it was burning hot up there in the full sun!

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: KaliTravel: BORNEO – Bako National Park, Sarawak
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ThomasBlogsChina: Sepilok, Selingan Island, and Osman’s Homestay


We are just back from a trip to Sabah, Borneo and man, was it amazing! Borneo is the third largest island in the world.

Sabah is home to the Kinabatangan River, which draws much of the island’s wildlife towards its southern parts due to excessive logging and palm plantations in the North and even some of the South.

We started our trip in Sepilok – home to the Orangutan Rehab and Sun Bear Conversation Centers.

Both parks were very well designed and allowed for these animals to be seen in their natural habitat.

I’d argue that the Orangutan Rehab Center did a better job of showing visitors the animals truly in the wild because the Sun Bears were kept in different fenced areas, which limited their mobility somewhat.

Regardless, it was still really cool to see these animals.

We stayed at Sepilok Forest Edge Resort, which I would highly recommend. The chalet that we stayed in was really nice – with A/C!

Next, we went to Selingan Island – one of three uninhabited Malaysian islands in the Sulu Sea where sea turtles land to lay eggs.

During the day, we were able to hang out on the beautiful beach, snorkel, and just relax.

At night, we watched one (of the twelve turtles that landed that night) lay eggs, then we relocated those eggs to the small hatchery in the middle of the island, and released the evening’s hatchlings from the day into the sea.

The island is also home to a number of monitor lizards… these giants are the main predator of turtle eggs on the island and are one of the reasons that the eggs are relocated to the hatchery.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Letters from a Solivagant: Borneo


In Borneo I was on a two week volunteering project that concerned the conservation of Borneo’s rainforest and the wildlife that calls it home. Borneo’s rainforest is rich with biodiversity, some of the most extraordinary in the world, and unfortunately deforestation and tourism are putting it a lot of it at risk of becoming extinct.

Although only two weeks long, this trip has taught me more than I’ve learnt during my whole time away. My eyes have been opened and I’ll be forever grateful to our guides Alvin and Jagger for introducing us to the beauty of the jungle and the wonderful creatures it contains.

Our first stop was Matang Wildlife Centre, about an hour from Kuching. This is a rehabilitation centre for Orangutans, Sun Bears, Crocodiles and Monkeys, amongst several other animals. Whilst we were here we helped make enrichment packages for both the Orangutans and the Sun Bears.

This involved hiding treats, using different materials, for them to open and enjoy. Our half of the group made some for the Orangutans, and despite us spending 2 hours making them – trying to make them as hard to get at as possible – the animals that are 96% similar to us, managed to get at their treats within minutes.

Most of the animals they rescue have been kept illegally as pets, including birds which they had a lot of. Whilst at the centre we heard about the horrific back stories of some of their animals. We learnt about a bear who was kept in a cage not big enough to stand for 18 years, and about a gibbon who they assume used to work for the circus because despite being a the centre for years she still makes the gestures as if she’s juggling when humans walk past.

We were told about “Bear Bile Farming” which involves the bears being kept in tiny cages with a tube going into their gall bladder. In Chinese medicine they believe the bile has healing powers, so by keeping the bears they have constant access to it.

The sad thing is that bears are strong enough to withstand this, so they’re powerless to stop their own suffering. We also learnt about bear paw soup, and how sometimes bears will be kept alive outside of restaurants, often with paws missing, so that when someone orders the dish it will be as fresh as possible.

Hearing about all these horrific stories filled me with an inextinguishable anger and once again I was questioning how people can be so cruel to animals who are often incapable of self defensive and of speaking out. The power to stop this kind of behaviour though lies with the consumer, the people ordering the soup, the people buying the animals for pets that they’re bound to get bored of, the people going to circuses with animal acts.

If you take away the demand for such things, the people who are making a living out of them will have to look elsewhere. Often people are trying to make money, to support their families or just so they can afford food to eat. It’s difficult to say whether the blame lies with them, when its foreign consumers who are letting them continue.

On our last morning at Matang, just before leaving, we met Alvin and Jagger, our guides for the duration. Alvin is a wonderful man, but is full with a lot of anger about the situation in Borneo, with the rainforests being destroyed and the animals, especially Orangutans becoming at risk of extinction.

He gave us a long talk about how Matang is keeping animals in cages when they should be in the wild, implying that what they were doing there was wrong. Although looking back I think he was rather saying that He’s frustrated and angry that there’s even a need for places like Matang.

However, a lot of the group suddenly decided that there was something “not quite right about Matang” and that they were doing the wrong thing. I couldn’t believe the sudden switch, and personally believe that there is a very definite reason programs like this exist and there’s a need for them.

An animal who’s been brought up as a pet and never seen the wild, who’s mother was killed so could never teach them how to survive, would likely not live for long if they were released. There’s a reason they’re in there, and the enclosures they are living in, and the care and love they are receiving is a great deal better than the horrific lives they were living before

They talk as if these issues are so easy to solve – “just invest in bigger cages” – the money is hard to find, and by the sounds of things so is the permission. I just think it’s really naive to think all animals are able to live in the wild, especially when you have the human race training hem for the circus, or beating elephants so much that they can be used for elephant riding.

You can’t tell me that a sun bear who lived in a cage barely bigger than herself for 18 years would be able to survive outside in the wild by herself, I just don’t believe that’s the better option for her.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Letters from a Solivagant: Borneo
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Early preparations to welcome inaugural Hong Kong Airlines’ flight to Kuching


KUCHING: Preparations are underway, led by the Ministry of Tourism and Sarawak Tourism Board, to welcome passengers on onboard the inaugural Hong Kong Airlines’ direct flight to Kuching at Kuching International Airport on May 28.

Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip said the carrier was scheduled to arrive at Kuching International Airport on May 28 and return to Hong Kong on the same day.

“We have to carry out early preparations for at least a month before the plane lands here to ensure the local tourism players are aware and ready to receive these visitors from Hong Kong,” said Talib during the handing over of the Hong Kong-Kuching direct flight promotional stickers to four taxi associations yesterday.

He believed with the arrival of thousands of tourists from the twice weekly direct flights would bring about a ripple economic effect to the state’s tourism industry, hoteliers, restaurants and businesses.

Prior to receiving the promotional stickers, a total of 45 taxi drivers were made to attend a short course on tourism due to their role as front-liners in the industry, said Talib.

He added that when overseas or local tourists visited Sarawak, they were bound to take a taxi, which was why the tourism course for taxi drivers was a vital ingredient to ensure the success of the state’s tourism industry.

He hoped other airlines such as Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) and AirAsia would consider starting their own packages in providing direct flights to Hong Kong or any other international destinations.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lauren Baillie: Who wants to know about spiders? – Kinabatangan Jungle


Semporna is a world away from Mabul, the water brown with the saddening site of floating litter, clapped up cars chugging through the streets and daily life passing by for many fish and fruit sellers lining the street. 

As Colin and I had both planned to travel on to Sepilok junction to visit the Kinabatangan River and jungle, We needed to spend the night in the town.  With a rather different sunset experience to the previous nights we had dinner on the water front.

Our very young and keen waiter struggled to understand our order but maintained a grin throughout, so a pleasant surprise when the meals turned up, even with a few expected surprises. The evening temperature barely falters from the heat of the day and we got ice cream and joined others on the bustling wharf to listen to a band who were performing music outside.

The drummer had little more than a symbal but it didn’t dampen any enthusiasm as the singers grappled with the high notes. 

In the morning we made our way through the dirty alleyway of fish, fruits, knock off films and indescribable smells, passed the sleek contrast of the blue mosque to the bus station and after a light breakfast boarded a highly civilised air conditioned coach north towards the Sepilok Junction.

Every time the bus pulled over food vendors clambered onto the bus, packets of crisps tied together on coat hangers and stray lengths of rope.

I realised a flaw in asking “what is that?” in the local language, as if the reply wasn’t banana or rice I was pretty stumped and had to nod and walk away. Colin however purchased bus snacks Borneo style, fried strips of banana and a multi pack of wafers.

With some confusion our bus was going to drop us a little further than our destination. After confirming this with the driver several times we were booted off roadside where a smaller, basic mini bus would get us a little closer.

Adorned with stickers of Che Guevara and Hello kitty, the open window took the place of air con and a small boy came around to check your destination and collect your fare.

About 40 minutes later we were once again pointed in the right direction, junction mile 14, and began a short walk to Uncle Tan’s, the tour operator who would take us into the junction and just in time, it was lunchtime!

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NabTravel: Borneo (Malaysia)


We were very excited to go to Borneo, especially as we had booked the flights months ago and Nathan was keen to see the place where his Great-Great Uncle “Cousin Jack” was captured as a P.O.W. (Prisoner of War) during World War II.

We went with a purpose! We’d also heard lots about the wildlife in Borneo and Mount Kinabalu.

Arriving in the afternoon gave us an opportunity to explore the city of Kota Kinabalu and check into our accommodation.

We stayed at the Oceania Hotel which was a like a palace compared to sleeping in the jungle two nights earlier!

Although it was a 10 minute walk from the centre of the city, they provided free shuttle service to and from the city throughout the day.

The main street of Kota Kinabulu is Gaya Street.

Many guide books make mention to this “famous”area, however we found it a little underwhelming, and much prefered spending our time eating with the locals on the basement level of the shopping centre and exploring the different markets situated around town.

On night two we had dinner at the along the ocean, where there is an array of seafood stalls to buy seafood by the kilo (cooked and prepared).

You can choose your seafood to be grilled, fried or cooked in numerous Asian inspired sauces.

We sampled squid, fish, crab and prawns, but there are mussels, oysters, bugs, cockles, lobster and more to choose from.

For dessert we treated ourselves to fried banana from a lady situated in the huge fresh produce markets.

Six pieces for one ringgit (approximately 30 cents).

After spending two days in Kota Kinabalu we caught a 6 hour bus to Sandakan.

We were keen to see some wildlife and visit Sandakan Memorial Park.

After looking through a few tourist brochures we decided against visiting any of the animals.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: NabTravel: Borneo (Malaysia)
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Social media to promote Sabah food to the world


KOTA KINABALU: The Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry will use the social media to promote Sabah’s local food to the world this May.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said in tandem with the current technological development, the ministry, through the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), had intensified Sabah tourism promotions through the online world.

“For the domestic market, STB will use the services of well-known blogger David Hogan Junior to run a social media campaign for ten months starting in May to promote Sabah through its local food using social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook,” said Pang at the 14th Sabah State Legislative sitting yesterday.

He revealed this in response to Banggi assemblyman Abdul Mijul Unaini’s question on the ministry’s plans to ensure the tourism industry’s continued contribution towards the state revenue.

According to Pang, STB had also established an online presence in China through the same strategy. Its Sina Weibo account currently has more than 98,000 followers, while its STB WeChat account has more than 5,000 followers.

The assistant minister said STB would also work with China’s influential mobile phone application company, Baidu.com, which with 45 million users is the largest search engine in the country.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Copy of WWII document to be kept at Sandakan Museum


SANDAKAN: A copy of the World War Two Sandakan Area Instrument of Surrender signed at Labuan on 13th Sep 1945, will be placed at the Sandakan Heritage Museum for viewing by visitors.

The framed copy of the document was presented by Sarawak Tourism Federation Heritage Development committee chairman, Lim Kian Hock to Sandakan Municipal Council president, Datuk James Wong at a dinner reception on Friday.

According to Lim, the copy of the Sandakan Area Instrument of Surrender was handed over to him by Gerard A. Joseph, the grandson of Major-General George Wootten, in Kuching during the 70th anniversary commemoration of the end of World War Two.

Present to witness the occasion were Borneo Exhibition Group (BEG) chairman, Ryan Rowland, two former soldiers, Ron Hatch, 92 and Len Snell, 95.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lauren Baillie: Let’s go, Borneo! Mabul and Sipadan


Door to paradise’s door took me 36 hours. Flying Auckland to Gold Coast then on to KL, to rush across the airport, parched grab a Starbucks and head to check in.

Despite not being allowed fluids through an airport the security guard looked at my cup and told me “water, OK!” I optimistically replied “coffee?” with a raised eyebrow, and he waved me through. Now I was back in Asia. 

My next flight from peninsula Malaysia, to Tawau, Sabah, I calculated myself to be the only tourist on the flight. I tried to bury my head further into my book whilst those around me coughed and spluttered into their bags, there is some things you will never get used to!

It was 10am in the morning by the time I arrived to Tawau and was greeted by a taxi driver holding my name. Feeling glamorous I hopped into his car where he assured me Semporna was a 20 minute drive, 20 minutes later he said, “just 20 minutes!” After an hour and twenty on dusty roads, passing plantations of coconuts, we arrived in the dirty port town of Semporna.

The boat to the island left in a few hours so I sought lunch. My few words of bahasa teamed with some pointing got me some vegetables and rice, a drink and a roti, lunch for all of about £1! The girl who served me giggled, again and again assessing my height as nearly double hers and embarrassed as she tested a few English words.

The dusty, dirty gateway camouflaged well the delights which were to be found one hour out to sea on a tiny sand bar island named Mabul

The long jetty led to a white sand beach, the wooden resort lined with palm trees. We were welcomed, shown to our rooms and then were served afternoon tea before making a beeline for the ocean. In the humidity, after a long journey the water was delightful, but at 31 degrees, more like a bath than a cool off.

The snorkelling was a glimpse of what was to come. Only metres from the shore the colourful coral was teeming with sea life.

From now on our every worry was taken care of. The dive schedules were written up for the following day, between every dive a buffet or snack and everyone was radiating positivity and paradise so the open plan dining hall became a place welcome to join anyone and discuss your latest underwater adventure.

It was also shark week so each night we were invited to watch a presentation about something topical, marine debris, sharks, rays and the importance of our oceans. 

For my second day of diving, my name was listed next to Sipadan, the world class site which had brought me to Borneo, the top spot of my diving bucket list since I first blew underwater bubbles. I stirred excitedly every hour before the 5:45 alarm where I took a few bites of breakfast and headed to the jetty. 

The ocean floor between Semporna and Mabul lies at some 60 metres below sea level, however between Mabul and Sipadan, it drops off into a channel of 2000 metres encouraging sharks, rays and unexpected delights to pass through. The current around the island also encourages these pelagic creatures, so there is plenty of reasons to be excited.

Sipadan used to be home to many dive schools, however in 1999 this was the reason for an international debate over who owned Sipadan; Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines. Shortly after it was deemed to be Malay in 2002, the schools were kicked off and it became a military base as well a sanctuary or both land and sea.

It’s white sands are thus patrolled by military, a short stretch of sand open to bikini clad divers between dives. 

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Regional hype on the Borneo Jazz Festival with tickets to match


MIRI: The 11th Borneo Jazz Festival scheduled on May 13-14 at ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri will continue to be one of the well-patronised jazz festivals in the region despite higher ticket prices starting this year.

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik said the increase in ticket price is befitting the international standard of the festival.

“Previously, our ticket price was very cheap and yet our standard was on par with other jazz festivals. Our current ticket price is very competitive and with jazz having its own following, we are confident we can still continue to attract some 4,000 festival goers this year,” he said at a joint press conference yesterday.

Also present were STB corporate communications director Angelina Patricia Bateman and ParkCity Everly Hotel Miri (PEHM) general manager Andrew Law.

This year’s pre-sale prices with adult passes is RM80 for a one-day pass and RM140 for a two-day pass, increased respectively from RM50 and RM95; while the family package with two adult passes and two child passes has been raised from RM100 to RM160

For children aged seven to 12 years, tickets are RM40 for a one-day pass and RM60 for a two-day pass.

Special price pre-sale tickets can be purchased online at the festival’s website www. jazzborneo.com available until May 12 while on May 13 and 14th, the price will be increased between RM10 to RM40 depending on the categories.

Meanwhile, Angelina said apart from sourcing world-class jazz bands from different countries, they also organised cross promotional events with other jazz organisers like the World Youth Day Jazz festival in Kuala Lumpur, having collaboration with airlines like Malaysia Airlines (MAB) and MasWings.

“For the World Youth Day Jazz on May 6-8, we will present O Sister! from Spain and Yuichiro Tokuda’s Ralyzzdig from Japan. They are among the eight bands to perform in Miri,” she said.

The two-day annual festival of jazz music will be staged from May 13 (Friday) till May 14 (Saturday) at ParkCity Everly Hotel in Miri, featuring some top lineups rendering a wide range of jazz genre world-wide.

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Groove to the music of Raw Earth at Borneo Jazz Festival


KUCHING: Asian jazz sensation Raw Earth will be performing at this year’s Borneo Jazz Festival.

The band has performed for major festivals throughout Asia such as Beerfest Asia and Timbre Rock & Roots as well as opening acts for music legends like Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Bonnie Raitt.

Raw Earth is a blues, rock and soul band with a stellar line up of Singapore’s most prominent musicians like Danny Loong and Francis Chan (from the Ublues), Victor Chen (winner of Strip Acoustic at Wala Wala), Surath Godfrey and Hanrong (from Rock outfit Reverie).

The band has a broad range of musical style, drawing influence from the 50s to 70s genres such as blues, rock and roll, funk, soul and even some classic blues rock. Their repertoire includes songs by Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk Railroad, Albert Collins, The Beatles and James Brown among others.

While the band prides itself in retaining the unpredictable and spontaneous concept of soul and groove within their music, they are also known for sudden on-stage improvisation and interacting with the crowd during their performance.

Besides Raw Earth, the other bands confirmed at this year’s festival are the Klazz Bothers from Germany/Cuba, Yuichiro Tokuda RALYZZDIG from Japan, Manou Gallo Groove Orchestra from Belgium/Ivory Coast and O Sister! from Spain.

Joining in on the fun will be Funkatorie from Malaysia, API from Malaysia/India and the Rad Trads from New York, USA.

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Total protection, breeding only way to save Sumatran rhinos in Borneo


KOTA KINABALU: A new study examines the decline of the Sumatran rhinos in Borneo. It concludes that the remnant populations of Sumatran rhinos can only be rescued by combining efforts of total protection with stimulation of breeding activity.

The researchers suggest to resettle small isolated populations and to undertake measures to improve fertility. The case of the recently captured female rhino in Kalimantan, Borneo shows the importance of immediate action. The article has been published in the scientific journal “Global Ecology and Conservation”.

A consortium of international scientists examined the historical development of the Sumatran rhinos in Borneo. Their study identified the low reproduction of females in combination with hunting as the main cause for the current decline of rhinos.

“Females do not find a mating partner within the small isolated populations any more, and the long non-reproductive periods lead to the development of reproductive tract tumours,” explained Petra Kretzschmar, scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Only a combination of intensive protection with improvements of the reproductive performance can save the species from extinction.

The researchers recommend resettling populations of less than 15 individuals to highly protected areas. Here, reproductive health should be monitored on a regular basis and individual female fertility (conception) should be optimised by using assisted reproduction techniques.

For their study, the scientists compared historical data with recent developments about the Borneo rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis harrissoni), one of two extant subspecies of the Sumatran rhino. The researchers used mathematical models to reconstruct the decline of the rhino population in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah. A study on habitat use completed the picture. Here, the scientists analysed data collected over a span of 13 years and identified the characteristics describing the preferred habitat of the rhinos.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Swimming with turtles at Sipadan, Borneo


These aquatic beauties may not have the awe of sharks, but their grace and charisma makes for an unforgettable diving experience

At Sipadan, off the coast of Borneo, strong currents swept in from the Celebes Sea.

In the early morning light I drifted across the shallow reef plateau on the eastern tip of this tiny uninhabited island, surrounded by curious batfish and clouds of brilliant-yellow snappers.

Like most divers I had come here in search of big fish: the fast, open-water species such as jacks, barracuda and tuna.

Here, around this island surrounded by deep waters, the currents are always rich in plankton, nourishing the reef and its inhabitants, and everything that comes in from the open ocean to feed on them.

The current took me across the plateau at speed, allowing me to pass through a pack of whitetip reef sharks.

Out in the blue I could see six or seven of their bulkier cousins, grey reef sharks, staying aloof.

A giant Napoleon wrasse hung in mid-water, eyes as big as ping-pong balls, bulbous lips and shimmering green flesh catching the sunlight from above.

At the edge of the reef, where the deep blue abyss plunged into darkness, there was a shimmering ball of barracuda, great silver streaks that swirled together like an underwater tornado. 

Swimming beneath them, I looked up through the living vortex as if in a chimney.

Drifting over the lip of the plateau I descended out of the grip of the current, hugging the reef wall and catching my breath.

The hard corals are healthy here, bright swatches of colour in contrast to the limestone plateau swept clean by the racing tides.

I had read that turtles were common off Sipadan, but the excitement of the fast drift dive had filled my head with images of sleek silver hunters.

Absorbed in the wall, I stared hard at wispy gorgonians, hoping to catch sight of a sea horse.

Then, tucked into the reef wall, I spotted the unmistakable patterned disc of a turtle.

Not a metre from my face-mask I stared at its wrinkled neck and saw it blink one hooded, dark eye.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Swimming with turtles at Sipadan, Borneo
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